Google cancels staff meeting after Gamergate-style attack on employees

Firing of James Damore, technologist behind controversial anti-diversity memoranda, triggers ire from alt-right reminiscent of 2014 Gamergate harassment campaign

Google cancelled a company-wide session on Thursday after several of its employees became targets of a Gamergate-style campaign of harassment by internet trolls raged by the firing of an engineer who had written a controversial memo about diversity.

We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and is putting forward, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email. But in accordance with the leak of proposed discussion questions, he told Googlers, a term used internally to describe employees, were being personally named on websites.

Googlers are writing in, worried about their safety and fretted they may be outed publicly for asking a question in the town hall, he said.

The town hall meeting had been scheduled to give Google employees a chance to discuss the fallout from a document written by software engineer James Damore that began circulating widely within the company last week, and was leaked to the press over the weekend. The memoranda blamed Googles diversity programs, arguing that the company was intolerant of conservative ideologies and that the wide gender gap at Google could be explained by biological differences between men and women.

Damore was fired Monday, after CEO Sundar Pichai called some of the memo contents contrary to our basic values and our code of conduct.

Damore and his memo have speedily become a cause celebre within various rightwing internet communities, including Breitbart News, alt-right Twitter and YouTube personalities, Redditors, and disgraced former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. Breitbart has published a series of articles singling out individual Google employees as social justice warriors, in some cases accompanied by screenshots of internal chats about diversity.

The leak of screenshots to Breitbart been shown that at least some current Google employees may be participating in the campaign.

The controversy marriages twin preoccupations of the online right: threats to free speech against conservatives, and the perception that white men are discriminated against by those seeking to promote historically disadvantaged groups. The loose alliance of agitators includes many of the forces that engaged in the Gamergate harassment campaign in 2014. Indeed, the Google memo is a major topic on the main subReddit for Gamergaters, known as r/ KotakuInAction.

Alt-right internet personality Jack Posobiec announced plans to hold coordinated protests at Google campuses around the country on 19 August. Meanwhile, Damore debuted a new Twitter account and professional photographs of himself wearing a shirt with the slogan Goolag.

Googles
Googles CEO Sundar Pichai … We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. Photo: Akintunde Akinleye/ Reuters

He dedicated his first major interviews to two YouTuber personalities who are popular among rightwing spectators and have promoted anti-feminist views.

Some of the Google employees whose profiles were publicized by the alt-right appeared to be get harassing messages on Twitter. Others induced their accounts private. Danielle Brown, the chief diversity and inclusion officer who sent out the first internal response to Damores memo, has faced significant backlash from far-right accounts and commentators and was the subject of numerous harassing memes spreading online. She also closed her Twitter profile.

One Twitter user who publicly blamed Damores memo and was named in a Breitbart article subsequently find graphic and violent death threats, according to screenshots.

The action taken against Google now echoes similar campaigns of harassment and activism by the alt-right during the 2016 general elections and by Gamergaters in 2014. Both motions were dominated by angry men, sometimes use anonymous online identities, who felt disenfranchised and wanted to see a revolutionary overhaul of the status quo.

Ostensibly, Gamergate was also concerned with ethics in game journalism and protecting the gamer identity, but it manifested itself as a right-wing backlash against progressivism.

Gamergate was the warm-up: an online motion that began because a man wanted to punish his ex-girlfriend. It intensified into a sustained period of harassment against progressive figures in the gaming industry largely women including game developer Zoe Quinn, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian and developer Brianna Wu.

The alt-right developed political influence when Donald Trump appointed Breitbarts Steve Bannon to operate his campaign. Breitbart was the media outlet of option for disaffected young white humen infuriated by social justice warriors and “its become” skilled at whipping them up into a ferocity with headlines like birth control induces women unattractive and crazy and would you rather your child had feminism or cancer ?.

Breitbarts adherents demonstrated influential during the presidential race, forming an army of pro-Trump keyboard warriors organizing on Reddit and 4chan and amplifying the Republican candidates message on social media.

Google did not respond to a query about what, if any , measures it was taking to protect staff. A representative said, Well find a better route to assistance our employees connect and discuss these important issues further.

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